search facebook twitter instagram close launch

Untitled Syrian Families Film

Producers Robin Hessman, Alaá Hassan


No bond is more profound than that between parent and child, and no role more primal than that of protector. That elemental bond is our point of entry for an immersive look at how war fractures families and the choices parents must make to protect and provide for their children. The film unfolds in chapters featuring Syrian families in Turkey, Greece, the U.S. and Syria. Each story is an intimate portrait of discrete human lives—with expectations and aspirations for their futures that have come to a crashing halt.

The film looks beyond the chaotic rawness of war to slow down and connect with four determined families after the bombs are no longer overhead. They have survived great upheaval and loss – each losing a vital piece of themselves: a spouse, a home, a child, a limb. In a tent at the Port of Athens, a mother nurtures her surviving children while enduring the pain of having failed to keep her youngest alive during their escape. She battles opaque bureaucracies, trying to reunite with her husband, who is across closed borders in Germany. In a war-scarred suburb of Damascus, a mother searches for her adult son who has been forcibly “disappeared” by the government. On the Syria-Turkey border, a widow with five young sons supports her family working in fields sporadically hit with rocket fire and considers leaving her children at a boarding school for war orphans. In rural Pennsylvania, a young man becomes parent to his preteen brother, whose leg was severed in an aerial attack. He helps him navigate the challenges of American middle school while waiting to hear if their asylum claim will be granted or if they will be sent back to Syria.

While the stakes for each family are foreground, their experiences illuminate vital larger issues. With 65 million people currently displaced by conflict worldwide, the great exodus of Syrians is a significant part of the humanitarian crisis of our age. Waves of refugees and migrants seeking shelter have sparked a beautiful outpouring of solidarity and generosity around the world. They have also unleashed a hideous backlash of nationalism and xenophobia. The film is an artful and urgent call to focus on our shared humanity, counter demonizing rhetoric, and ensure our governments and communities keep welcoming those fleeing war.

About The Team

Megan Mylan (Director) creates intimate observational non-fiction films. She has been recognized with an Academy Award®, Emmy nominations, an Independent Spirit Award and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her work includes: Smile Pinki, Lost Boys of Sudan, Raça and numerous short documentaries. Megan served for several years on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Executive Committee for Documentary and was guest director of the Documentary film program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. Before beginning in film, she worked with Ashoka, an international development non-profit, in the U.S. and Brazil. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and Masters’ degrees in Journalism and Latin American Studies from the University of California at Berkeley.

Robin Hessman (Producer) is a filmmaker and lecturer with a focus on telling international stories. She produced and directed the Peabody-award winning film, My Perestroika, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, was released theatrically in over 70 cities in North America, was 
a New York Times Critics’ Pick and aired on PBS on POV. She is Vice-President and a founding board member of the Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship. Previously, Robin produced several award-winning PBS films and was Filmmaker in Residence at PBS affiliate WGBH in Boston. Throughout the 1990s Robin lived in Russia making documentaries and working for Sesame Workshop as the on-site Producer of Ulitsa Sezam, the original Russian language Sesame Street. Robin is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and an Associate at Harvard University’s Davis Center. She graduated from Brown with a joint degree in Russian and Film and received her graduate degree in film directing from the All-Russian State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) in Moscow.

Alaá Hassan (Producer)
 is a Syrian born and raised photographer and filmmaker currently based in New York. He recently produced the feature documentary The War Show, a Danish-Syrian co-production looking at the Syrian war through a group of young adult friends. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival followed by screenings at Toronto, IDFA, Leipzig and London festivals and was broadcast in the U.S. on PBS as part of POV’s 30th season. His photography book, Cardboard Castle, looks at urban development in Damascus and will be released later this year with support from the British Council and the Prince Claus Fund.

Lars Skree (Director of Photography) Lars’ numerous feature and documentary photography credits, include the Oscar® nominated films The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence. He was awarded the Sundance film festival Best World Cinema Cinematography in 2011 for Putin’s Kiss, Emmy nominated 
in 2012 for Armadillo, and awarded the Golden Frog award at Camera Image for The Look of Silence. He graduated as Director of Photography from the National Film School of Denmark.

Rafia Salameh (Camera, Damascas) is a Syrian filmmaker, writer and activist. Her work has been featured in international film festivals and television outlets. She is a member of Warrior Womyn, a group committed to documenting the resilience of women affected by conflict settings. Rafia is essential to our access to the incredibly sensitive story of the families of the disappeared.

Purcell Carson (Editor) Purcell’s editing credits include the Oscar-winning Smile Pinki and the 2011 Semper Fi: Always Faithful, which won best-editing from the Tribeca Film Festival, as well as Double Dare, Note by Note and How to Grow a Band. As director, she is currently finishing Among the Perishable, a multi-character portrait of the global banana industry and has begun a series of shorts exploring the Guatemalan community in New Jersey. Purcell teaches a seminar in urban studies and film at Princeton University. She is a graduate of Brown and Stanford.

Cinereach engages with film projects through a number of financing, production and support models. Untitled Syrian Families Film is a Cinereach grantee.